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To be human, when being human is a habit we have broken, that is a wonder.[1]

In the Irish myth The Voyage of Bran, there is a silver branch that sings to Bran, and by doing so, upends his world dramatically. As Moriarty explains in his book Invoking Ireland, this is a breaking of the habit of being human which leads to silver branch perception – a way of seeing the entire Ecology of the world, natural and spiritual. No easy thing, it requires the breaking of societal and personal habits of being human that are based on a myriad of conditioned and usually unconscious presuppositions. The most dangerous of these presuppositions is that there is a separation between the mundane and the sacred, between human and nature, between nature and the sacred.

Silver branch perception is a journey toward awareness of all of nature as the song of the silver branch; the singing of the sacred. Everything already is sacred, and all we have to do is change our way of seeing from one which sees only the presupposed, mundane world, to one which sees the already present sacred in everything. From this perspective, wherever we might choose to engage in a spiritual practice is appropriate; in fact, considering Moriarty’s idea of silver branch perception, everywhere already is a place of spiritual practice. Cultivating the seeing of things in this manner has been and continues to be a journey toward awareness. I am not sure if silver branch perception can ever be fully reached; actually, I am fairly confident it cannot be, and yet I must engage that journey. At the moment, a part of that journey, for me, is the dedication of a sacred space for a more conscious and intentional reverence; a place not seen as separate from the song of the silver branch, but specifically ‘named and tended’ for the  focusing on my participation in the song.

After my recent return to the U.S. from an extended period in Europe, I was in a state of turmoil. Although I was back in my home country, I felt rootless, lost, homeless. It was more than reverse culture shock… I eventually came to realize that my homelessness was more of a spiritual nature. I had known this of course, at least initially, and, in spite of the disjointed experiences that come with changing continents and with leaving the old and ‘being thrown’ into the new, I had attempted to re-root myself, that is to say, my practice. I spent much time in nature, attempting to re-learn the language and to reacquaint myself with the felt-sense of the land here, which was quite different than I had known in Europe for so many years.

The daily grind took over though, and I drifted… the conscious engagement of this process was mostly forgotten. With the realization that the turmoil I had been experiencing had little to do with my surroundings (though place has much to do with psyche, it is also true that it is possible to find contentment anywhere), a change in attitude has occurred and I again have set about ‘making myself at home;’ sinking roots back into the earth here, where I am, now. Perhaps I just needed more time to arrive, but the process of re-rooting is growing more intentional, more in-tune with the natural cycles here. The idea that everything already is sacred is returning to the forefront of my mind, but I nevertheless felt called recently to find a suitable place fully dedicated to practice and to the journey; a place set aside for conscious, intentional immersion within the song. For me, as a reluctant druidic practitioner (more on that another time, perhaps), the best place to engage in practice is of course in nature, the wilder the better. I decided to ‘find’ a Nemeton.[1]

It was not until recently though, in the company of AlainaFae, that the suitable places presented themselves (actually, they came up and hit me over the head with a frying pan)… they had been right in front of me the whole time. Nestled in the wooded areas of a local park (the kind with nature trails, not the kind with jungle gyms and swing sets…), where I had been spending much time, we discovered two Nemetons that presented themselves to us through synchronicity and animal guides. The Nemetons seem to want to occupy the cross quarters, with Serpent’s Egg in the Northwest, and Visionsong in the Southwest.

I always saw the entire park itself as a circle, with the directions clearly marked by old and gentle trees possessing energies appropriate to their direction in the Irish mandala (West: Vision or Knowledge; North: Battle: East: Prosperity; and South: Music).[2] I had meditated on this mandala many times while walking there with my dog, but that was mostly a quiet, contemplative practice, certainly significant, but with the discovery of the Nemetons, a more active and intentional energy has emerged. AlainaFae and I recently dedicated Visionsong to Lugh on Lughnasda, and will dedicate Serpent’s Egg on Samhain. This (correctly, I think) suggests that there will be two more Nemetons to be discovered, one in the Northeast and one in the Southeast, which will be dedicated in 2014 on Imbolc and Bealtaine, respectively.

For me, it is important that the Nemetons are situated within the mandala of the park – as above, so below. It is a reminder that they are not outside, not separated, but an integral part of the whole. Humans, nature, soul, and spirit, all are contained within and raise their voices with the silver branch – everything already is sacred, all is within the song. The Nemetons are a place to consciously and intentionally engage my journey within that song. Through practicing within the ‘named and tended’ sacred spaces of the Nemetons, I consciously choose to participate in the transformation of my perception from one of presupposition to one informed by the song of the silver branch.

We will of course be updating this site with more information and experiences, but for now, here are some pictures of the park and of the Nemetons…

[1] Moriarty, John. Invoking Ireland = Ailiu Iath N-hErend. Dublin: Lilliput, 2005. Print. p.139

[2] A Nemeton, (or Neimheadh) is a forest shrine or sacred grove. The root of this Celtic word, Neimh, means heaven, so as a sacred place on earth, a Nemeton is a joining of heaven and earth, which one might also understand as silver branch perception. The name also seems to be associated with Nemed (meaning holy or privileged), the leader of the Nemedians in the Book of Invasions found in the Mythological cycle of Irish mythology. This brief etymology suggests a sacred space, set aside from daily life; a place to dedicate to the nurturing of silver branch perception…

[3] For more on this, see the Irish Myth The Settling of the Manor of Tara and The Celtic Way of Seeing by Frank MacEowen.